Flat Earth News (2008)
Newspapers live by exposure and yet they keep their own business concealed – for good reason. When Nick Davies decided to break Fleet Street’s unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, he found that the business of truth had been slowly subverted by the mass production of falsehood: “Finally I was forced to admit that I work in a corrupted profession.”
Working with a network of sources inside newsrooms, Davies named names and identified a sequence of national news stories which proved to have been contrived by the PR industry to serve the interests of the rich and powerful; and of global stories which turned out to be fiction generated by a new machinery of propaganda run by military and intelligence agencies. He tracked the impact of all this on a world where the consumers of news are led to believe a mass of stories which in truth are as false as the idea that the Earth is flat, tainting government policy, perverting popular belief. The book caused special controversy by tracing in detail: the ease with which the CIA and MI6 had been able to plant fiction about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the pages of the Observer; the routine racism and resort to falsehood in the operation of the Daily Mail; the infection of right-wing politics and incompetence in the Sunday Times which had once arguably been the best newspaper in the world.
The book developed a new model for understanding the infiltration of news organisations, exposing the ease with which mainstream media can be manipulated by those acting for governments, corporations and powerful individuals. With the help of specialist researchers from Cardiff University, who ran a ground-breaking analysis of the output of ‘quality’ newspapers, Davies found that most reporters most of the time are no longer allowed to perform the most essential functions of their work – a profession corrupted at the core.